TOKYO - A sex exhibition smack in the middle in one of Tokyo's hippest areas is shining a nostalgic light on Japanese erotica - a culture the curator believes is dying out.
Kyoichi Tsuzuki's "Erotopia Japan" deals with Japanese sexuality and fantasies, the gallery located in the heart of Shibuya's trendy fashion district plastered from floor to ceiling with eye-boggling prints, one wall dedicated to love hotel beds.
"This kind of Showa period (1926-1989) culture is being wiped out, as Japan is held to a global standard," Tsuzuki told AFP. "We might not be able to save it from being killed off completely but we can preserve it for posterity." Against a backdrop of erotic photos, the centre of the exhibition is dominated by life-like female dolls tied up in bondage ropes and screaming in agony. Another sex doll is strapped to a table with a suction hose protruding from her crotch and plugged into a television.
"Sex culture in the West and Asia are completely different," said Tsuzuki.
"You see sex museums in Europe, in places like Paris and Amsterdam, but they are often viewed from an intellectual viewpoint, or as erotic art," he added.
"In Japan, erotic art has a humorous edge, it's cheeky and is meant to make you laugh. It's totally different from the Christian belief that sex is somehow a sin." Japan has a liberal attitude towards sex and fertility festivals, where giant phalluses are joyfully paraded through the streets and toddlers and their grandparents suck on penis lollipops, take place annually.
However, the sex museums that once dotted the countryside have died out in recent years, largely due to apathy or political correctness.
"The aim of the exhibition is to remind Japanese people of that culture," said Tsuzuki. "We are not so aware of it anymore." But a life-size photograph of a topless woman being sexually ravaged by the mythical 'kappa' river demon of Japanese legend, left some visitors scratching their heads.
"That's just too Japanese," said florist Kanako Sano, 27. "That might have been funny once, but now it's just weird and a bit gross." Surprisingly, Tsuzuki says, far more women are visiting the exhibition than men.
"Men tend to be more shy and leave quickly," he said. "More women have come and they linger longer over the exhibits.
"It's like, women are more knowledgeable about where the best love hotels and which ones have cuter rooms," he added. "Men don't care where they do it."